We all have 'em. Those friends. You know the ones. Old friends. You've known them almost as long as you can remember. The friends that now, are in and out of your life... (probably more out than in...) but that every time you reconnect, things are exactly where they left off?
I have one of those friends. I was 13 when we met. Paula. She was 22. She was my play director's girlfriend. She took me in and made a little sister of me through out my high school years. I shared with her all of my teenage woes... boys, clothes, sports, academics etc... and she always responded with understanding, advice, and mostly laughter. She was good for me. I knew there was always someone there with love and acceptance.
The older I got however, the more I realized that I was probably just as good for her and she was for me. Paula struggled with a few things. Drugs and alcohol being the biggest. And because of that we'd lose touch every now and again. But EVERY Christmas, without fail, a Christmas card would arrive at my family's home to tell me what she'd been up to- and that she hadn't forgotten me.
I caught up with her the summer after I graduated from Messiah. I met her two beautiful children, both girls... then ages 3 and 6. They were so perfect. So precious. And the loves of her life. I was assured that those girls had been the turning point for my friend. That she now had a reason to stay straight, accountability and love in the tiny faces called Elizabeth and Macie. She was happy.
I lost touch with her a few years back. Actually, five and a half years. The last I'd heard from her was a Christmas card telling me of her family of 5, new husband and three children, happy and healthy.
Over the past few months I've been wondering about her. My how her children must be older now... teenagers. How she'd love to hear that we too have 3 children, one in which looks just like me. That I'm planning a trip to her hometown to see another friend and that if she's still in the area- we could get together.
I tracked her ex-husband down. It took a month. Finally got in touch with him this afternoon. I felt silly, introducing myself over the phone,
"Hi. You don't really know me but I was good friend's with your, um, with Paula. It's common place for Paula and I to lose touch for a while and then reconnect but for some reason I haven't heard from her in a long while and I'm just wondering if you could forward current information to me so I could contact her. "
He was silent. It became uncomfortable. I thought to myself... Oooh. He isn't sure he should share her information with me... better offer something different. So I said,
"Or, if you'd be more comfortable, I could give you my information and you could have her contact me instead."
More silence. Awkward silence. And then he said it. Something I was not expecting at all... but after hearing it knew it was a possibility all along.
"I don't really know how to tell you this..."
A surreal moment. I knew instantly.
"NO!" and then more whiney... "Nooooo."
And although I knew the answer, I asked it anyway, "Drugs?" to which he responded with a sullen, "Yes."
It hurts me. DEATH hurts me. I know it hurts everyone, as at one time or another we're all confronted with it. For me it was the ALS scare two years ago. It was a turning point. A reckoning of sorts. But it leaves such fear that when confronted again... it's almost unbearable.
Was she scared? Did she suffer? Was she aware enough to know this would mean she'd never see her girls again? Did she regret it? And mostly- is she with Jesus?
My stomach is sick just thinking of it. Mostly because time is not guaranteed to anyone- and there are people, friends I know, that refuse to listen to, consider, and/or accept what God did for them... meaning that were this to happen to any of them they would spend an eternity separated from God.
Drugs are bad. Really bad. There's no "fine line" about it. You can't be in only "knee deep". Paula wasn't on street drugs. No needles, no pipes, no bongs, nothing. They were prescription drugs. Things currently found in medicine cabinets around the world. DRUGS ARE BAD!!! The proof lies in their ability to make a young mother of three so needy that she sacrificed the rest of her life with her three precious, beautiful, little replicas of herself for a seemingly momentary escape that became an eternity. And as much as someone may be able to argue this... SHE DIDN'T CHOOSE THIS! The addiction was too great for her.
She was amazing. I wish you all could have known her. But I would like to think you know at least a little of who she was as she helped form the person I became.
We all have THOSE FRIENDS... Call them. Catch up with them. Tell them that you love them because tomorrow is not guaranteed...